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Alt-Nation: Revving Up for the Weekend!


Vudu Sister – Household Items (Columbus Recording Company)

Last year Vudu Sister’s debut, Bastard Children, garnered considerable praise as a mostly folk/ Americana release. I remember seeing them at one 990WBOB’s Mondays on Blast and thinking it wasn’t really my bag, hope Fuzek likes them. Flash forward to this past January when I caught them at Local 121, and it completely changed my mind. They were performing as a full band, blasting out grunge-inspired infectious rock ‘n’ roll and covering stuff like The Vaselines. I didn’t know what happened to have them change so dramatically but whatever it was, thought they should keep doing it. Now Vudu Sister is releasing their sophomore CD, Household Items, which continues in the vein of cranking the volume up and rocking out like a grunge hurricane. I was conversing with singer/guitarist Keith McCurdy about the new album and doing a preview for Household Items, but the physical CDs weren’t going to be in till a couple of days before the show and all he had it on was an iPod.  So we decided to just drive around Providence blasting the record and even stop into the Scurvy Dog to hear what it sounds like in bar.


As for the change in direction toward the heavy rock thud on Household Items, McCurdy said, “People who have heard the new record have been surprised. I did what I did before because I was alone, so you pick up an acoustic guitar. I never wanted to be a folk singer. When I got into folk there were just a ton of noise bands around, so I wanted to do something different. Now it’s become oversaturated in the opposite direction. I never wanted to grow a beard and play the banjo.”

There are no audible banjos when Household Items roars out of the gate with a couple of rockers in “Revival” and “Kid Heroine.” The former reminded a little of 70s Cheap Trick, which McCurdy doesn’t count as influence, while the latter is about dealing with a friend’s descent into heroin addiction while borrowing from the verse from The Runaways classic, “Cherry Bomb.” McCurdy said, “I’m taking a huge influence from a lot of female punk rock /riot grrl bands like The Breeders, Hole, Babes in Toyland, Bikini Kill, and PJ Harvey. I think listening to the same guy exclusively over and over again is dangerous. It’s like only eating one kind of food. I don’t think about writing songs. How they come out is how they come out. I wanted to make a more aggressive album.”  As far as making a more aggressive album, McCurdy more than succeeded.

The tunes on Household Items aren’t all in the same food group. “Buffalo NY” harkens back to the Bastard Children acoustic side, while “Silver Driver” has kind of a funky modern rock edge to it. “The Farmer’s Life” has a psychedelic acoustic feel that reminded me a little of the Velvet Underground’s “Here She Comes Now,” which was covered by one of McCurdy’s major inspirations, Nirvana. “A Farmer’s Life” has a similar vibe in terms of the mood of the song, but it passes muster as far as originality and being its own beast. The title track drew inspiration from time McCurdy spent working in a group home dealing with one particular resident. McCurdy elaborated on that experience saying, “Those places make you desensitized. The irony of working a humanitarian job is it can drive you to want to kill.”

Vudu Sister was selected to be the first release by the new Columbus Recording Company that was founded by Jeff Prystowsky and Ben Knox-Miller of The Low Anthem. Household Items was recorded in the bowels of the old Columbus Theatre on Broadway Street in Providence. It’s really a fascinating turn for the Columbus that has been everything from a first run movie theater to a porno theater, has hosted plays and film fests, and now is a recording studio and live music venue. The Columbus Recording Company has also recently recorded the forthcoming Smith & Weeden debut, and I’ve heard rumors that The Low Anthem’s next album will be recorded there as well. Household Items was recorded by Ben Knox-Miller who McCurdy describes as incredibly supportive through the process.

McCurdy has a busy few months lined up ahead of him. After the release show for Household Items Saturday at the Columbus Theatre, he’s heading out on a solo northeast tour with Dan Blakesly. Later on he’s going to be doing a solo tour hitting Dayton, OH; St Louis; and Boulder, CO, and he will be appearing as part of the homegrown showcase at the Newport Folk Festival on July 26.

The CD release for Household Items, featuring performances by Vudu Sister, The Silks, Brian Webb, and Alex Garzone, will take place at the Columbus Theatre in Providence on May 4.  The show starts at 8 pm.

Ben Walsh – Self-Titled

Ben Walsh’s 14-track CD is a collection of songs that go all over the place. When I received the biscuit, my initial reaction to the cover was, “Oh great, another hippy singer-songwriter.” I was shocked when it kicked off with “Net Dating,” which was a great slab of lo-fi crunching rock ‘n’ roll bliss. The second track, “No Guarantee/Sunnyside,” starts with an annoying acapella refrain of “when the hurricane comes” but it actually evolves into a decent tune. The third tune, called “Traffic,” is just a rap over what sounds like a shitty Casio loop. Walsh has flow, but the lyrics really aren’t memorable. By this time I’m thinking, “Did this guy just record every demo he’s had laying around for years?” I don’t mind that it isn’t cohesive, but is he looking to be the poor man’s Ben Folds (Lay and Wonder/Balkan Beat-Recycler) or the poor man’s Beastie Boys (Shmufflepants)? I’d be curious to see what he does live, but as far as a record, this comes off a little like masturbation. The first song is great, the second is good, and the rest is self indulgent.  Let’s put it this way, there is a song called “Kleenex” about a mutual bond over a brand of tissue. Maybe releasing these tunes in separate EPs would have worked better, maybe just quitting after “Net Dating” was the answer.

Ben Walsh’s CD Release show with Local Lights and Kayla Ringelheim will be at Firehouse 13 on May 4.

Girls Rock Robots

Who doesn’t like the three things in the title of this event? Okay, I guess there are some evil robots in sci-fi flicks. I don’t really trust robots actually, but I think most of the people playing this event are human. This marathon Cinco De Mayo showcase of female musicians is a benefit for the Trudeau Center and Sojourner House. It will be hosted by local luminaries, Rudy Cheeks and Kristen Minsky, and there will be food trucks, raffles and all kinds of fun stuff. The band list is a little overwhelming, but I recommend checking out Malyssa and The Liberators, Nymphidels, Tai Awolaju with Sara Azriel, and Roz Raskin and the Rice Cakes among others. I’ve included the set times below to give you the unofficial guide to Girls Rock Robots so you can just sit back enjoy the high grade tequila. Happy Cinco De Mayo!

Music by:
3:30 TAI (boo city) & SARA AZRIEL
5:30 ROZ and the RICE CAKES
6:45 1st RAFFLE DRAWING***
8:30 2nd RAFFLE DRAWING***
10:00 Possible Special Surprise Performance

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